I'm Every Woman, Not Some Sub-Par Headlining Act

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I remember cringing the first time someone told me I was a “beautiful woman”: post-shower, naked, and completely vulnerable before her. In retrospect, it wasn’t so much being called “beautiful” as it was hearing it paired with “woman.” Not that I was ashamed of my womanhood or being seen in a full-blown feminine light, but in that moment I realized that I had previously only ever been made to feel marveled at as some kind of core aesthetic. Overlooked, pacified. A mute screen of woman. It was the first time I felt fully embraced as a valid representation of a woman and not hindered by my androgyny.

“My only purpose is to be the most authentic representation of myself I can be. If any or all of what that looks like makes you uncomfortable, I’m not sorry. For some, my message will be lost on. I won’t be for everybody and that’s okay. To those who see ME: Thank you.” 

I’ve been embracing myself more and hiding less. I feel empowered in my skin. On this journey of freedom, I feel a neutralized sense of gender expression notwithstanding the insistence to label me with little to no room for fluidity. I feel secure enough in my sexuality to intimately explore the full-spectrum of women—having only ever dated hyper-feminine women—as my attraction to more masculine-presenting women blooms. This transparency—still one-hundred percent human—invokes a heightened sense of vulnerability:

“How will I be responded to?”

I’m immediately reminded that I’m not anyone’s boxed perception of me—synonymous only with my propensity to leave room to redefine myself, and again. And again.

What Loving Women Has Taught Me About Being a Woman

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I once wrote,

“If you want to get to know me, leave your generalizations home. I don’t fit them.”

Minus being a well-established cat owner, an avid reader and watcher of those belovedly predictable coming-of-age girl meets girl stories, and a silent ambassador for all things awesomely androgynous, it’s a statement that still remains primarily true for me.

Contrary to what the voices in the spaces between fear and denial used to tell me, I’m a firm believer that being yourself is easier done than said. Though, it didn’t make the initial trepidation and self-sabotaging thoughts associated with living a life that felt authentic to me, any less real. With so few accessible lesbian role models growing up, my quest for identity was a withdrawn and isolating one. It wasn’t until Rosie O’Donnell’s “Born this way!” slice of lesbitude when she boldly and publicly revealed her sexual orientation in 2002 that I realized, “Hey, here’s someone who just came out and, like myself, doesn’t fit the standard feminine mold but isn’t waiting around for society to adjust to her brand of woman, either.” It was in that moment that she became the surrogate voice for everything I knew to be true within myself, but as a teenager, couldn’t articulate. I’ve never forgotten how powerful my connection to her story was, and the lasting impact it still has on me as a 31-year old gay woman standing in her truth with both feet planted firmly on the ground.

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I’m a woman first, a lesbian second. My sexuality doesn’t define me as a woman, nor does my expression of gender and my inclination to favor menswear over feminine clothing make me any less of a woman. I don’t “wear the pants” in some fantasy-based sense in a relationship. I don’t have any exclusive insights into how “bro code” is structured, nor is it my life’s mission to convert every attractive straight woman I encounter in the name of an imagined members-only point system. I’m not drawn to a certain type of (submissive) woman by default, either. In fact, it’s not my desire to live up to any of the ridiculously preconceived roles of “masculinity” that are commonly assigned to me.

One might also assume that my romantic encounters with women, as a woman, somehow make me an expert on the inner workings of a woman—they haven’t. Each woman’s heart has its own exclusive body of water — seas of longing, pain, secrets, revelations, and shifting waves of power I’m still learning to swim in. I’m still listening: for the loud crashes and the quiet tides in her mind when she doesn’t say a word. I’m still observing: the suns that set in her soul through a breathtaking smile. Her body, her own canvas. Watch her paint.

I’m still learning just as much about women as I am about myself and the woman I’ve become. The woman i’m still becoming.